Ex-hitman Larry Mazza coached actor, appears in film
Roughly 17 years after he left prison, Larry Mazza stood at the podium in the faux courtroom at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas and addressed the audience.
His thick Brooklyn accent booming, he cracked a joke: “The last time I was in a courtroom, it wasn’t much fun.”
The Merritt Island man proceeded to tell his extraordinary tale in that May 2018 speech — how he was introduced into “the life” of the Mafia after being seduced by an older woman. His corruption case and prison sentence for murder, racketeering and gambling. And, in a twist worthy of a story in itself, becoming a published author and consultant for cinematic royalty, Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese.
Mazza’s come a long way since serving 10 years in prisons up North. Now he’s a consultant and budding actor — either talking about his experiences in Mafia documentaries or auditioning for, ironically, mob-related roles. The latest: a small role in “The Irishman,” a Mafia film starring De Niro and directed by Scorsese in which Mazza also served as a technical advisor.
“No more looking over my shoulder ready to be killed,” says the 58-year-old Mazza, author of a memoir titled, appropriately and simply, “The Life: A Brooklyn Boy is Seduced into the Dark World of the Mafia.” It details his start in the mafia, how he participated in brutal beatings and mob hits and how he left that life behind.
“This is my story,” says Mazza, the co-owner of a gym on Merritt Island, “the life I lived and the heavy price I paid.”
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From boyhood to mobhood
Mazza grew up in Brooklyn in a “very normal family” with his firefighter father, Lawrence Sr., and mom Joan, who worked in a bank. He and his siblings attended Catholic school, and Mazza played sports in high school.
He briefly went to college to study — no joke — criminal justice.
In 1978, while working at Danza’s Supermarket delivering groceries, the 17-year-old Mazza met Linda Schiro, an attractive older woman in her 30s. They fell in love.
Schiro, however, was married to one of the bosses in the Colombo crime family. While this may have been grounds for something, well, fatal, surprisingly, Mazza said he was given the OK by the boss, Greg Scarpa, to continue his affair with Schiro. Scarpa, Mazza explained, had his own extramarital relationships on the side.
Schiro and Mazza’s affair lasted for 10 years, and it served as Mazza’s introduction into “the life.”
Under Scarpa, “I wound up rising in the Colombo family as a soldier,” Mazza says, admitting he was part of hits and beatings. Years later, “the (Colombo) family split into two factions, and they went to war, meaning kill or be killed.”
It’s believed that Scarpa, aka the “Grim Reaper” or “Mad Hatter,” murdered more than 120 people before he died in 1994. Shortly before his death, news was released that he had doubled as an FBI informant for 30 years, even while he was a Mafia crime boss.
The news stunned Mazza, who at the time was in prison facing a life sentence for murder, racketeering, gambling and other charges. For years, he had been loyal to Scarpa and after learning of his death, wondered how the crime boss could have lived a double life.
In his book, Mazza describes killing Nicholas “Nicky Black” Grancio of the Colombo Crime Family with Scarpa. After that moment, reality sunk in for Mazza: “I was a gangster,” he writes, “a major player in this ‘big Mafia war,’ and I indeed had just whacked a very major player on the other side — the most important casualty of the war so far.”
A long time after the Nicky Black murder, when Mazza was in prison, he became a key player in the corruption case against Scarpa. That decision — “ratting,” or Rule No. 3 of things not to do in Cosa Nostra, says Mazza — was not an easy one to make. (Having an affair with a crime boss’ wife and getting involved in drugs while in the Mafia are Rules No. 1 and 2.)
In exchange for his information in what he called a “business decision,” Mazza’s sentence was reduced to 10 years. During that time, he kept a journal. After his release in 2001, that journal became his book.
One of the New York police detectives on his case, Robert Mladinich, wrote the foreword in Mazza’s book. “‘He’d tell you it’s no secret that he lived the life,” the retired detective and crime book author writes, “that he was in ‘The Life,’ and that he took a life, or three or four lives, when he had to. That’s not something Larry Mazza is proud of. In fact, he has more regrets than any hundred men put together.”
Intro to Hollywood
One fan of Mazza’s Mafia memoir was actor Armand Assante, whom Mazza met in 2016. It was a chance meeting at a restaurant that led to this special friendship.
They talked about Assante’s Mafia movies. Mazza talked about his Mafia days.
Assante, Mazza said, was “captivated.”
“This book is a graphic, brutal, stomach-churning journey that shatters all pre-conceptions that ‘The Life’ ever offered dignity and redemption to any who chose it,” Assante wrote. “‘The Life’ is a tome about hell on earth.”
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“He really believed in it becoming a movie or a screenplay,” Mazza says of Assante, who starred in “Gotti” in 1996 and appeared in “American Gangster” in 2007.
Enter De Niro and Scorsese, who were filming “The Irishman.” The film is based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt, and chronicles the life of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, an alleged Mafia hitman.
De Niro, who won an Academy Award in 1975 for best supporting actor as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather II,” sought authenticity for his latest role. In “The Irishman,” De Niro plays Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family.
The film reunites De Niro with “Godfather II” co-star Al Pacino, who plays Jimmy Hoffa. Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, and Ray Romano also co-star in “The Irishman.”
Friendship with ‘Mr. D’
As actors prepare for their roles, a good amount of time is spent on research. Mannerisms, speech patterns, accents: For “The Irishman,” De Niro wanted behavior. He got a little help from Mazza in that arena.
According to Mazza, when the Academy Award-winning actor asked his security team “if they knew anybody from the past that was around that life,” Mazza’s name came up. Several times.
And that’s how his friendship with De Niro began.
“I wound up becoming his consultant or technical adviser as to some realities of the life, how hits really go down and different scenarios he would be in in this movie,” he says.
Their first meeting was supposed to last for an hour. De Niro, Mazza says, met with him for three.
An invite to Scorsese’s house followed. Casting directors were there.
“It was surreal. Ultimately, I got a part in the movie ‘The Irishman.’ It’s opened a lot of doors for me since,” Mazza adds.
Coincidentally, Mazza’s son, Lawrence Mazza II, is an actor with lead roles at Cocoa Village Playhouse under his belt. He moved to New York City to pursue acting.
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The younger Mazza has given his dad some acting advice. But, the elder Mazza admits, he didn’t need a lot of advice playing a hitman.
Since that first meeting with Assante in 2016, Mazza’s seen his life in “The Life” completely flip-flop — for the better. He’s gone on to audition for roles as hitmen, corrupt police detectives and other characters of that sort.
From page to screen?
In June 2018, De Niro arranged a meeting for Mazza with Nicholas Pileggi.
Alongside De Niro, Scorsese, Pesci and Pacino, the best-selling author of “Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family” and “Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas” is considered a legend in the Mafia genre.
Pileggi wrote the screenplays for “Goodfellas,” the 1990 Scorsese hit based on “Wiseguy,” and Scorsese 1995 film “Casino.” Pileggi won an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for “Goodfellas,” a classic mob film that stars De Niro, Pesci and Ray Liotta.
Mazza’s meeting with Pileggi at his Manhattan office was nothing short of a dream come true.
“We sat down for a couple of hours and talked about my book and how it could be portrayed in a TV series or a movie,” says Mazza. “He was wonderful. He’s just part of that cinematic royalty.”
Because Mazza self-published the book, he retains the rights should it go on to movie or TV production.
His family — his retired firefighter father, mom, siblings and wife Kelly — have been very supportive of the book.
“Anything he sets his mind out to do, he can do,” says Kelly Mazza, his frequent companion to auditions and meetings with producers. She said she’s proud of her husband’s journey, from book to screen and everything in between.
On goodreads.com, the book has a 4.5 star rating (out of 5 stars) and 4 out of 5 on Amazon book reviews.
With each foray into TV and movies — and with a little help from De Niro — Mazza’s hopeful “The Life” will find its way to the screen.
Till then, Mazza’s looking forward to more TV appearances and his part with his “friend” De Niro in “The Irishman.”
And of coming full circle?
People often ask Mazza: “Are you a gangster playing an actor playing a gangster? Or are you an actor playing a gangster playing an actor?”
Turns out it’s a story that’s still unfolding.
“I love my new life,” Mazza says.
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Check out the book
For more information or to order a copy of “The Life: A Brooklyn Boy is Seduced into the Dark World of the Mafia,” visit larrymazza-thelife.com.
Larry Mazza timeline
1978: While working at Danza’s Supermarket, a 17-year-old Mazza meets Linda Schiro, wife of Greg Scarpa, American capo and hitman for the Colombo crime family.
1979: Mazza meets Scarpa, who gives his blessing to Mazza and Schiro’s affair.
1985: Mazza meets a hairdresser named Christine in a salon and begins dating her and Schiro.
1986: Schiro and Mazza’s relationship ends, and he marries Christine.
1989: Mazza said the Colombo family split into two factions, and “the war started.”
1991: Mazza’s son, Lawrence Mazza II, is born to him and Christine Mazza.
Also this year, police arrest Mazza.
1992: Mazza makes a deal in his corruption case and is sentenced. While in prison, he keeps a journal that would eventually become his memoir, “The Life.”
2001: Mazza’s released from prison and comes to Cocoa Beach, where his parents had retired. He moves to Merritt Island three years later, when his probation was up.
2003: Christine and Mazza split.
Mazza spends time over the next few years as a personal trainer and eventually meets Kelly Guion, the woman who would become his second wife.
2012: Along with Christine Mazza, Larry Mazza appears on season 2 of “I Married a Mobster” on Investigation Discovery network. From the show, he becomes friends with producer Kevin Kaufman.
Also that year, Larry Mazza marries Kelly Guion on Dec. 12 at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.
2016: As “The Life” is in its final draft, Mazza meets actor Armand Assante, who starred in “Gotti” in 1996. The pair strike up a friendship, and Assante writes a testimonial for Mazza’s book.
2017: In the summer, Mazza meets Robert De Niro after the Academy Award winner’s security team recommends Mazza as a consultant for De Niro’s mob movie “The Irishman,” which is based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses.”
A few months later, Mazza meets Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese and his casting directors. Not long after that Scorsese meeting, Mazza reads for a part and ends up with a small role.
On set, Mazza meets actor Craig DiFrancia (“Power,” “The Green Book”).
In April, Mazza filmed a segment for the A&E documentary “Gotti: Godfather and Son” and again worked with Kaufman. The Gotti documentary aired in June. Mazza says the pair are working on a potential series about the downfall of the mob.
In May, Mazza had a guest appearance at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. His speech can be seen on the museum’s website or click here to watch it.
In June, under the direction of De Niro, Mazza says he met with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi (“Goodfellas,” “Casino”). Also that month, Mazza played a corrupt ex-detective in a season 5 episode of “The Perfect Murder” on Investigation Discovery. That episode aired in September.
2019: “The Irishman” — directed by Scorsese and starring De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, and Ray Romano — will be released in theaters Nov. 1 in New York and Los Angeles, before expanding wider. It will debut on Netflix on Nov. 27. Mazza has a small part in the film.